The other day, I saw one of my colleagues use a pile of yellow pages as a stepping stool to reach to a cabinet which was beyond her reach. Words from my mother echoed within me:
“पुस्तकाला पाय लावायचा नाही. पुस्तकात विद्या असते, विद्येचा अपमान म्हणजे सरस्वतीचा अपमान. अणि पाय लागलाच तर पुस्तकाला नमस्कार करायचा“.
Never touch a book with your feet, books have knowledge and by touching it with your feet you are insulting Saraswati (the goddess of knowledge)। If you accidentally happen to do so, you should bow to the book.
This was one of the earliest teachings received to me. It did not matter what the book was : a school text book, a notebook, a telephone directory, a weekly glossy, a comic book, a novel, a user manual, a Diwali ank (to the Marathi crowd – you know what I mean), etc. It did not matter, all you knew was you did not touch any published piece of work or any well bound stack of paper with your feet. There was no room for any “ifs” or “buts” there. It was firmly stamped in our psyche. If we accidentally did happen to even so much as carress a book with our feet, the immediate reflex action was to touch it with the right hand and do a little salutory action of then touching your forehead with the same hand. I am not a religious fella, but this one doctrine I have followed till date. Not for it’s religious/cultural reasons anymore, but more for the spirtual reasons. In essence, I believe that the printed word in any book serves a purpose of rendering knowledge – no matter what knowledge – it could be about how to keep ones feet from smelling or building a bomb. Knowledge is power (and thus divine) – knowledge when used properly can lead to wisdom and wisdom when used wisely can lead to the betterment of the individual or a society or a nation or the planet.
So when I saw her using the yellow pages as a stepping stool, I felt the urge to share this belief with her and here on this blog. I do not expect or hope that she or anyone else follows this principle, afterall it’s not about it being right or wrong, it’s what you believe and what you don’t. A book to me is sacred – regardless of its contents I would never,ever on purpose dare touch it with my feet – probably the two year old in me believes that there is a woman in white sitting on a swan playing her veena inside every book. This I Believe.